Why do we say upside-down instead of downside-up? They're both true--the top becomes the bottom and the bottom becomes the top, yet downside-up is pretty much never used. These are the questions that keep me up at night.
I won't beat around the bush: This is one of the easiest, most lovely and delicious cakes I've made in a long time. It takes about 20 minutes of active work, which is well worth the spectacular finished product. Heck, I might even be willing to put in a full half-hour for this one. The cranberries are beautifully vibrant and, it's important to note, consistently come off the pan perfectly (knock on wood).
On top of the attractive downside that came up, the cake is so tasty. Buttermilk in the batter makes the cake part very moist, and it has a great crumb too. The deal-sealer is the topping. The cranberries are tart, but that makes them a perfect balance to the sweet, buttery glaze that forms atop the cranberries and in their nooks and crannies. (Cranberry crannies.) The walnuts might seem superfluous, but they're not--their crunch and nuttiness is important too!
Lest you be misled by my title, there is no downside to this downside-up cake. It's simple, scrumptious, and stunning. I can't promote this cake enough--make it now and be dazzled!
Cranberry Walnut Downside-Up Cake
Adapted slightly from Epicurious
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (7 ounces; do not thaw if frozen)
- 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
- 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
Melt butter in a 9-inch skillet or sturdy cake pan* over moderate heat, then swirl to coat bottom and side of skillet and stir in brown sugar. Simmer, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes, then sprinkle cranberries and walnuts evenly over butter mixture and remove from heat.
*I boldly used a regular 9-inch aluminum cake pan over a gas-lit eye on my stove-top, and it didn't scorch or anything. Your mileage may vary.
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until light and fluffy, 4 to 6 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture alternately in batches with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until just combined.
Heat topping in skillet over moderately high heat until it starts to bubble, then gently spoon batter over topping and spread evenly. Quickly transfer to oven; bake until cake is golden brown and a wooden skewer comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around inside edge of pan, then invert a serving plate over pan and invert cake onto plate. Cool completely on plate on rack, 1 hour. Serve cake at room temperature.